Emma looked into the womans square but not unpleasant face framed by dark red hair pulled back on either side like curtains. Hello, she answered.
And who might you be?
Emma threw the last of the things in the suitcase and closed the lid.
Emma Trask, she answered, and then blushed I mean, Fitch.
Nuts, said Iris with a disarming smile. The doctors bride. And here I had pegged you as a runaway.
It was the first time Emma had laughed in days. And she would always remember that bubble of her laughter overtaking her there on the sidewalk at Miss Jamess feet, her things disarranged, the green slant of the trees behind Miss Jamess head, and the evening sun warm on her own back. Will came around from the side of the bus and reached out his hands to pull her up to him. It would all be all right, she decided there and then. And she had laughed out loud again, falling into the circle of Wills arm.
Thank you, he smiled down at Iris. Youve been a great help.
Youre very welcome, Dr. Fitch, Iris answered.
Lets go home, he said to Emma.
All right. She smiled. And he grabbed her suitcase with his free hand, never letting her loose from his side. Several paces away, Emma turned her head in the crook of Wills arm and saw Miss James waiting out the stream of cars before slipping in and crossing the road.
Postmaster James. He wanted to kiss Emma right there again on the street, but picked up his pace instead.
Hey, she protested, laughing, but she skipped along beside him, not taking in anything at all of her new town except the dank smell of the sea, and the heavy air, and the thunk thunk of the waves against the seawall to her left. Straight through the thick of town and out toward the older, quieter part where the steep- angled houses softened as the afternoon wore down. Anyone watching and everyone was, Emma knew it, it was a small town, after all, and she had to be the topic of most dinner tables, why not? she was young and fairly attractive and he was their doctor! anyone watching would probably notice how easily the two fell into step as if theyd been walking together for years already. Anyone would have commented on that, and the lamps lighting up inside the houses they passed seemed to Emma a silent strain, like a low murmur beneath the chat, of approval and attention. She straightened herself a little in reply.
Perhaps this was why, when Will reached slightly ahead of her and pushed open a gate, looking down proudly, she hesitated. Here she was, at last. She glanced up at the house, which looked just like all the others along the way steep- angled roofs and grayed shingles, a wide front porch and a door the color of the shingles, unpainted. They walked slowly toward it, and when they reached the porch steps, Will put his hand under Emmas elbow. Someone was speaking inside the house, a woman, and as Emma rose up the steps toward the screen door, the urgency in the voice drew her in, as though the house were talking. For Christs sake, Will muttered as he pulled open the door. I left the radio on.
She walked toward the voice. Down the hall she could see through to the kitchen where Will had put beach roses in a jam jar against the window to welcome her. The evening sun splintered through the water and the flowers hung there like pink stars. At the back of the pub, theres a scoreboard, the woman on the radio said. And tonight, it reads RAF 30, Luftwaffe 20. Although it has been a bad night for the British, its been worse she paused for the people of Berlin. RAF 30, Luftwaffe 20. There it stands, the score that London keeps each night the Battle con
Excerpted from The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Blake. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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